The latest consumer sentiment data points to consumers who are “confused” about the current state of travel and how they should feel about it, according to the latest Travel Sentiment Index Report from Discover Puerto Rico’s partner Destination Analysts.
The data indicates that “over half (51.2 percent) of American travelers expect the pandemic to get worse in the next month; comparatively only 16.2 percent felt this way heading into the Fourth of July holiday just two months ago. When asked how close to “normal” the U.S. is in terms of leisure activity, just 21.6 percent of American travelers felt that the U.S. was at least 70 percent back to normal, down from 42.7 percent at the beginning of July.”
With this, when asked to use one word to describe travel in July, the overwhelming sentiment was “exciting.” Now, that has been tempered. Encouragingly, most consumes continue to feel “good” about travel, though other terms like “scared” and “no” are more dominant with rising COVID-19 cases, according to Destination Analysts.
Meanwhile, the overall decline in the perception of the safety of travel is seen most acutely in a handful of activities. The Destination Analysts report shows that “although Americans generally continue to see travel and leisure activities as safe rather than unsafe, air travel, indoor attractions and restaurants have suffered notable declines in safety perceptions. Since early July, perceptions of commercial air travel as safe has fallen to 37.1 percent from 51.1 percent, while indoor attractions (like museums and aquariums) have declined to 44.4 percent from 59.9 percent, and dining in restaurants to 52.8 percent from 67.7 percent.”
Another report by Longwoods International indicates that over half of consumers continue to say they are changing their plans because of the current COVID situation; however, this is a decline over the past month.
Amir Elyon, president of Longwoods said that “uncertainty about the future path of the pandemic is taking its toll on traveler confidence. The impact of both Labor Day gatherings and back-to-school for tens of millions of primary, secondary and college students on the spread of the virus probably won’t be known for weeks. Expect last-minute cancellations and bookings and volatility in visitation over the coming months.”
The shifting consumer sentiment is evident in Puerto Rico’s advance booking pace, noted Discover Puerto Rico. “Though hotel bookings for the rest of the calendar year continue to outpace 2019 through August, there was a dip each week of the month. In evaluating the percent hotels were booking above 2019 levels each week of August as well as the first week of September, there was a turnaround at the beginning of September,” said the island’s destination marketing organization (DMO).
Though Puerto Rico has not seen cancellations that Elyon said should be anticipated, the booking window has become much shorter in recent weeks, with more weekly pickups for the coming month than was seen in August, the DMO indicated.
Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste (ASUR), whose company Aerostar operates the Luis Muñoz Marín (SJU) International Airport that serves the San Juan metro area, reported that When compared to pre-pandemic levels of August 2019, passenger traffic increased by 14.8 percent in Puerto Rico in August 2021.
Last month, passenger traffic at SJU numbered 935,781 people, which represents a 14.8 percent increase from the 815,043 passengers recorded in August 2019, before the pandemic. Last year, during the pandemic’s height, passenger traffic at SJU was just 302,237 people.